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U.S. broadcasters who have relocated their remote microwave transmission services to digital now cover 45 percent of the population in all DMAs, according to Sprint Nextel.

In its bimonthly report to the FCC, the telco—which is financing broadcasters’ move to the new broadcast auxiliary services (BAS) in the 2 GHz band—said that BAS operations have been relocated in 103 markets, covering 45 percent of the population of all Designated Market Areas, or more than 138 million viewers. Since the last report was filed two months ago, BAS licensees and Sprint Nextel have transitioned 15 additional markets covering 17 million more Americans, including residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Moreover, 88 percent of the total BAS equipment has been delivered, with 75 percent of all BAS operators in the United States having received all of the control systems, mobile and fixed transmitters, connectors, cabling, transmission lines, antennas, decoders, modulators, central receive antennas and other elements of BAS systems that they need to relocate. In addition, 60 percent of broadcasters have already installed the new equipment that they ordered.

The largest market to transition during the past two months was the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. market—the 16 largest DMA—in April. That operation included a diverse array of equipment including 39 mobile trucks; 32 central receive sites; 5 fixed links; 18 studio master antenna control systems; four helicopters, 22 portable transmitters and 54 spares. Nearby, the West Palm Beach/Ft. Pierce market—with more than 1.9 million residents—also transitioned within the past two months.

The relocation of Puerto Rico—with 17 separate participants—ranks as one of the more diverse relocations to date, according to Sprint Nextel. Two installers relocated 12 of the participants, with one of the installers handling the tower sites and trucks for eight participants in less than two months. The rugged terrain proved a challenge for the crews to reach the transmitter sites. The main central receive site has four co-located stations, all of which were quickly installed by the same vendor.

The deadline for completing the BAS transition has been extended several times; Sprint Nextel’s latest deadline extension request is February 2010.